Dennis Farina, John Ortiz join HBO pilot

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Horse-racing drama 'Luck' is from David Milch, Michael Mann

Michael Mann has recruited pals Dennis Farina and John Ortiz to star in "Luck," the horse-racing drama pilot for HBO that he is mounting with David Milch.

The project is described as a provocative look at the worlds of horse racing and gambling told through a diverse group of characters surrounding a racetrack.

It centers on Ace Bernstain, who, after three years in prison, teams with Gus Economou (Farina), his longtime chauffeur and muscle, to craft a complex plan involving the track. They recruit Turo Escalante (Ortiz), a successful trainer with sordid reputation.

Milch wrote the pilot, which Mann is directing. Both are executive producing with Carolyn Strauss and "The Sopranos" alum Henry Bronchtein.

In 1978, Farina was a veteran cop in his native Chicago when Mann tapped him as a police consultant and gave him his acting start with a small role in the 1981 film "Thief."

Mann also handed the WME-repped Farina his first full-time TV gig on the 1986 series "Crime Story" as well as parts on his TV hit "Miami Vice" and in his 1986 feature "Manhunter."

Meanwhile, Ortiz appeared in Mann's feature adaptation of "Miami Vice" and the director's most recent film, "Public Enemies."

Ortiz most recently starred opposite frequent off-Broadway collaborator Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Hoffman-directed comedy "Jack Goes Boating," which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival. He is repped by Gersh and Sanders & Armstrong.